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Dec 4, 2020

This week, we’re joined by Justin Fenchel, Aimy Steadman and Brad Schultz, co-founders of Future/Proof, a company focused on developing innovative adult beverage brands for the next generation of consumers.

The trio launched Future/Proof’s flagship brand BeatBox Beverages, which markets wine-based cocktails that the company promotes as “party punch,” in 2011. The brand debuted in a 5L bag-in-box package that resembled a boom box (aka a portable stereo system) and was aimed at millennial consumers seeking alternatives to boxed wine and malt beverages. 

With its unabashed embrace of party culture, BeatBox, which is available in flavors such as Blue Razzberry and Tropical Punch, found a receptive audience among college students and at music festivals, which in turn helped the brand land a national distribution partner and a major retailer early into its development. In 2014, BeatBox hit the jackpot on reality TV show Shark Tank, picking up a $1 million investment from Mark Cuban, whose funding supported new retail and distribution growth. 

Fenchel, Steadmen and Schultz have since built a thriving business, supported by the launch of a 500mL product which has become the fastest growing single-serve wine product in the U.S., according to data from Nielsen. Of course, it wasn’t all wins for BeatBox and the co-founders encountered more than a few stumbles and challenges over the past decade. We unpacked the whole story in an interview included in this episode, which explores the co-founders inspiration for the brand and why naiveté, scrappiness and business school connections were critical to its early development. They also explained why over-preparing was key to winning over Mark Cuban, how the convergence of lifestyle and liquid play into the brand’s trade and consumer marketing strategies, why the company is branching into hard seltzer and canned wine, and the reason behind its bullish stance on crowdfunding.

Show notes: 

0:42: Strong Vibes For Taste Radio Live; Common Threads In Funding Wins; Oh, And Brad Wants To Fight Bob Dylan -- The hosts kick off the episode with a discussion about Zoom attire, why Brad is so jacked up that he’s ready to box Bob Dylan and a live edition of Taste Radio featuring actor, fitness icon and entrepreneur Jake Steinfeld. They also spoke about the packed agenda for BevNET Live Winter 2020, which will include Speed Dating sessions with top design firms and national retailers, and the links between recently announced investment rounds in the beverage industry. Finally, a recap of some of the notable products sent to the team over the past month, including single-serve bagged coffee, turmeric-infused lemonades, zero-proof cocktails and oat-based snacks.

23:54: Interview: Justin Fenchel, Aimy Steadman, Brad Schultz, Co-Founders, Future/Proof -- Fenchel, Steadman and Schultz sat down with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif for a wide-ranging interview that began with the origins of BeatBox Beverages and how the concept was born and incubated at the University of Texas, how the brand was designed to address the convergence of millennials, boxed wine and music festivals, crowd-sourcing their label design and the remarkable story of how the company landed its first major distribution partner. The co-founders also spoke about learning on the fly about the alcoholic beverage industry, communicating the brand’s key attributes to retailers and consumers, how they landed a spot on “Shark Tank” and picked a $1 million dollar investment from the show. Later, they discussed learnings about BeatBox’s primary package and why it was critical to add a single-serve offering, transitioning distribution to beer wholesalers, how they raised over $800K in a recent crowdfunding campaign and what they’re looking for in a strategic partner.

Brands in this episode:

BeatBox Beverages, La Colombe, Heaven’s Door Whiskey, ZENWTR Huzzah, Olipop, Culture Pop, Clearly Kombucha, Hint Water, Vita Coco, Forto, Vitaminwater, Cheribundi, Kate Farms, Unity Wellness, High Side Coffee, Solo Coffee, Steeped Coffee, Om Mushrooms, Four Sigmatic, Golden Tiger, Minor Figures, Betera, Happy Snaps, Silverback Beverage Co., Brizzy Seltzer, Corkless